And then the white flesh of the policeman cut the water. He sank.

I thought he had drowned, too. The rain fell on the oily surface of the canal.

And then the officer appeared, inside the cage, his face to the bars, gagging.

It shocked me, for I thought it was the dead man come there for a last in-sucked gasp of life.

A moment later, I saw the swimmer thrashing out of the far side of the cage, pulling a long ghost shape like a funeral streamer of pale seaweed.

Someone was mourning. Dear Jesus, it can’t be me!

They had the body out on the canal bank now, and the swimmer was toweling himself. The lights were blinking off in the patrol cars. Three policemen bent over the body with flashlights, talking in low voices.

“…I’d say about twenty-four hours.”

“…Where’s the coroner?”

“…Phone’s off the hook. Tom went to get him.”

“Any wallet, I.D.?”

“He’s clean. Probably a transient.”

They started turning the pockets inside out.

“No, not a transient,” I said, and stopped.

One of the policemen had turned to flash his light in my face. With great curiosity he examined my eyes, and heard the sounds buried in my throat.

“You know him?”


“Then why…?”

“Why am I feeling lousy? Because. He’s dead, forever. Christ. And I found him.”

My mind jumped.

On a brighter summer day years back I had rounded a corner to find a man sprawled under a braked car. The driver was leaping from the car to stand over the body. I stepped forward, then stopped.

Something pink lay on the sidewalk near my shoe.

I remembered it from some high school laboratory vat. A lonely bit of brain tissue.

A woman, passing, a stranger, stood for a long time staring at the body under the car. Then she did an impulsive thing she could not have anticipated. She bent slowly to kneel by the body. She patted his shoulder, touched him gently as if to say, oh there, there, there, oh, oh, there.

“Was he killed?” I heard myself say.

The policeman turned. “What made you say that?”

“How would, I mean, how would he get in that cage, underwater, if someone didn’t, stuff him there?”

The flashlight switched on again and touched over my face like a doctor’s hand, probing for symptoms.

“You the one who phoned the call in?”

“No.” I shivered. “I’m the one who yelled and made all the lights come on.”

“Hey,” someone whispered.

A plainclothes detective, short, balding, kneeled by the body and turned out the coat pockets. From them tumbled wads and clots of what looked like wet snowflakes, papier-mâché.

“What in hell’s that?” someone said.

I know, I thought, but didn’t say.

My hand trembling, I bent near the detective to pick up some of the wet paper mash. He was busy emptying the other pockets of more of the junk. I kept some of it in my palm and, as I rose, shoved it in my pocket, as the detective glanced up.

“You’re soaked,” he said. “Give your name and address to that officer over there and get home. Dry off.”

It was beginning to rain again and I was shivering. I turned, gave the officer my name and address, and hurried away toward my apartment.

I had jogged along for about a block when a car pulled up and the door swung open. The short detective with the balding head blinked out at me.

“Christ, you look awful,” he said.

“Someone else said that to me, just an hour ago.”

“Get in.”

“I only live another block…”

“Get in!”

I climbed in, shuddering, and he drove me the last two blocks to my thirty-dollar-a-month, stale, crackerbox flat. I almost fell, getting out, I was so weak with trembling.

“Crumley,” said the detective. “Elmo Crumley. Call me when you figure out what that paper junk is you stuck in your pocket.”

I started guiltily. My hand went to that pocket. I nodded. “Sure.”

“And stop worrying and looking sick,” said Crumley. “He wasn’t anybody…” He stopped, ashamed of what he had said, and ducked his head to start over.

“Why do I think he was somebody?” I said. “When I remember who, I’ll call.”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray